These three gentlemen are Bob Walsh, Bob Buyers and Sid Robertson, all members of the Backworth Male Voice Choir who became temporary OAPz for Song for Marion. The Backworth choir also makes a cameo appearance as itself at the climax of the film. Bob Buyers, whose son Michael is also a Backworth member, compiled a fine collection of anecdotes and memories from choir members. I've already published one or two selections. Here's a third, extracted from the summer 2011 diary of Bob Buyers himself.
June 27 The OAPz choir is sounding quite good and friendships are being established around the tea trolley as well as in the banter that bounces to and fro during rehearsal.
June 29 Sang my part in Ace of Spades – director implies I’m not aggressive enough – will see what we can do.
When I first met the senior British actors in Song for Marion's OAPz choir, emerging from caravans at the production base, or keeping warm in the St Francis church hall, many of their faces were familiar. I recognized the warm and friendly Elizabeth Counsell immediately. After searching my memory banks for half an hour I remembered that Ram John Holder had made me laugh as Porkpie in Desmond's. Anne Reid MBE is, of course, famous for her roles in Dinnerladies, Coronation Street and much, much else. There was definitely something familiar about the lovely Arthur Nightingale. And then there was Barry, who plays the sweet and accident-prone Timothy. Where had I seen him before?
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"Just watched Song for Marion," tweeted @LucyLawless7 from Manchester. "It was beautiful. I love Vanessa Redgrave and @iTerenceStamp. Huge girl crush now on Gemma Arterton." That's the spirit, Lucy. And here's @Caztheginge from Glasgow: "Wenty see Song for Marion at the pictures n cried for n hour n a half solid. What happened to me being a heartless bastard??" Then there's @AnnedeFreyman from York: "Terence Stamp stole my heart tonight #songformarion" As director @SteelMillPaul says, "word on the twittersphere is sooooo positive." The film is funny as well as heart-rending. Here's a comedy clip, featuring Ms Arterton and brilliant OAPz choir members Anne Reid and Elizabeth Counsell:
Some closing twitter words from @Laburnums16: "You must see this film Song for Marion. It's the best film I have seen in ages." Yes indeed.
Ken Marshall, Song for Marion's producer, was a steady and friendly presence when the film was being shot, back in July and August 2011. My general recollection is of a man in the background simultaneously working at a laptop and watching over the proceedings with a mixture of controlled excitement and the sort of expectant protectiveness I associate with impending fatherhood.
This movie, after all, had been a long time gestating - far longer than some critics have assumed. When Song for Marion opens in over 300 UK cinema screens on Friday it will mean the completion of a long journey for Ken, director and writer Paul Andrew Williams and their company Steel Mill Pictures. With any luck it will also help ensure a bright, long-term future.
I talked to Ken, aged 37, about his background in the film industry, his friendship with Paul and their long but, in the end, successful struggle to bring Song for Marion to a big screen near you.
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Twas the night before Christmas 2011 and I had removed the children's lists of presents from up the chimney - partly to preserve the story of Santa, and partly to reassure myself that the gifts the children were to receive in the morning really would include something they wanted very much.
Orla's list was full of the usual requests: books; clothes; multiple pointless pink plastic objects. But there was one very special thing: she had asked for her grandmother – my mother, Moira Fitzsimons - to stay well for long enough to see Song for Marion when it came out.
Delicious little bits of Song for Marion have begun popping up online in advance of Friday's release date (22 February), including on You Tube. Here's Vanessa Redgrave (Marion), backed by the glorious OAPz choir, singing Cindy Lauper's True Colours as her doting, grumpy git husband Arthur (Terence Stamp) and loving son James (Christopher Eccleston) look on.
We remember the day this scene was shot extremely well as it was our daughter Orla Hill's first day on set - her first day on any film set, ever - and both of us were on hand to chaperone her. (Readers will be relieved to learn that we shared out the rest of Orla's shoot days without squabbling).
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Auditions for the OAPz choir began in the spring of 2011. Sally-Anne Cooper wrote in her diary: '‘The singing was fun, I am not what they are looking for, but it would be great to get involved." By June, she was involved. Her diary reads: "We will sing Love Shack and perhaps three or four other songs." And then: "Four weeks till filming, sang Crazy, Ace of Spades, Ain’t Nobody, True Colours and Love Shack."
The OAPz choir is a vital part of Song for Marion. It was assembled from members of community choirs in the north-east of England where the film was shot, seasoned professional actors who also sing and one extraordinary lady drummer who lives very near me in East London. The OAPz were drilled and rehearsed by choir master Richard Scott (who can sing a bit too). Several of the OAPz have written accounts of their time on the Song For Marion set. We'll be publishing a selection of those, starting today with Pat Mailer, who is pictured above (right) with fellow choir member Joy Alexander and director Paul Andrew Williams. Now read on...